Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How often do you wash your towels?

Generally speaking, people don't do things haphazardly. Even if you don't know what it is, there's usually sound reasoning behind every decision that everybody makes. But, once you understand that reasoning, it gives you better insight as to why people do the things they do. That guy you are arguing with might have a reason for his point you don't know anything about. With that in mind, consider this anecdote.

Suppose you take a shower. You grab a towel, get in the shower and wash, are presumably clean, and then use that towel to dry yourself. Here's the question that every lazy college student (including me) wanting to limit the quantity of their laundry has asked themselves:

Do I really need to wash this towel?

The rationale is that the towel was used to wipe water off your clean body, so is it really dirty now?

While I am an only child, my wife is one of 11 (his, hers, and theirs). Imagine doing laundry for that many people and you can see why, more often than not, my mother-in-law would frequently say to herself, "No, that towel doesn't need to be washed." Who wouldn't reason this?

Fast forward to adulthood for my wife and all her siblings, though. All of them have a household mandate that every towel gets washed after one use. Why? Because their mother (understandably) washed towels infrequently and even that college student knows that after a few uses the towel becomes musty despite the compelling logic to never wash it. All of my brothers- and sisters-in-law spent a childhood filled with musty towels and none of them can stand the thought of continuing that tradition with their own families even though there was a good reason for it when they were kids.

There's always a reason for behavior. People rarely act without some rationale for doing so. This example illustrates how something in someone's past can effect how they act in the present. In the grand scope of life, how clean your towel is probably isn't high on most people's priority list, but this same concept of having a reason for behavior is true of many other aspects as well.

The next time someone says something in a meeting that seems entirely stupid to you, remember that they probably have what is a perfectly reasonable reason for whatever their position might be. Challenge yourself to find out what that reason is, which will give you a deeper appreciation for their perspective of the issue at hand, and it might even lead you to a better solution. Wonder how often they wash their towels 8).


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 10:44 AM   1 comments


At 6:58 AM, Anonymous tehnyit said...

Interesting comments. I believe it also pays to be aware of the other person's character. I have had some bad experiences where I was accussed of being narrow minded and not appreciating their views when I probe them to understand their viewpoints. Looking back, I can understand their position given their characters.


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